Instagram and Snapchat
August 12, 2020
Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
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Spiritual Safety in the Facebook Age

The following is excerpted from Spiritual Safety in the Facebook Age, available from www.wayoflife.org:

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Instagram

Instagram has 1 billion users (2019). 72% of teens use Instagram. 100 million photos and videos are uploaded daily. Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012.


Teens love Instagram because they can create a profile of themselves, post photos and videos, create broadcast channels like YouTube, document their daily lives, send and receive messages, and follow their favorite celebrities.

“If you walk into any middle school in the United States and stop a random 13-year-old girl and ask her how many followers she has on Instagram, she will tell the exact number as of 5 minutes ago” (Jesse Weinberger,
The Boogeyman Exists, p. 138).

Instagram suggests friends and celebrities based on what the social media site knows about you.

There is a Snapchat-like feature that lets users send a timed photo or video that disappears after viewing. “It's likely they'll see mature content (including sexy stuff, swearing, and substance use), mean or sexual comments, and hashtags about suicide, anorexia, and other concerning topics” (“Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Instagram,” Commonsensemedia.org, Mar. 28, 2019).

Instagram’s image sharing, with its enhancing filters, is particularly attractive to girls, though guys are attracted to this, as well.

Instagrammers create “an Instagram life, telling their own stories, or at least a stylized and idealized version of it. ... Instagram is the crowning achievement of that decades-long development that we have called the ‘celebrification’ of everyday life and ordinary people, a strategy developed by attention merchants for the sake of creating cheap content” (
The Attention Merchants, pp. 311, 312, 314).

There is great pressure to pursue likes and to check friends’ updates. Instagram “demands interacting with strangers to make them feel engaged or heard, the way a politician or other public figure might ... ‘This is the hardest part because it takes something money can’t buy, and that is TIME. It takes a LOT OF TIME’” (
The Attention Merchants, p. 312).

Peer pressure is taken to new heights via social media. Teenagers “pod” together by agreeing to like and comment on one another’s posts. If you don’t aggressively participate in likes, you will be asked to leave the pod.


Snapchat

Snapchat has 203 million active users (2019). 90% of 13-24-year-olds use it.

It promotes sharing of images and videos that “self-destruct” in 10 seconds. 3.5 billion snaps are created every day.

Filters and digital lenses can alter the user’s appearance in dramatic ways.

“Snapchat offers the element of instant gratification that attracts teenagers and young adults. It’s done a great job so far at giving teenagers a product which they like to play around with.”

Snapchat is a major forum for selfies.

Snapchat is a major forum for cyberbullying and sexting.

“Snapchat is full of threats. With disappearing snaps, a culture of sexting, and a very sexually graphic stories section ... there’s nothing quite like Snapchat. ... The disappearing nature has encouraged many to use Snapchat to ‘sext’ without fear of being seen by the wrong eyes ... but as any teen can tell you, images can always be captured via screenshot and distributed to others in a matter of seconds” (
Smartphone Sanity).

Snapchat is addicting and potentially time-wasting in a multitude of ways.

The
Snapstreak keeps a record of how many days in a row two users have snapped each other. “If you want to start World War III in your home, simply threaten to take away your kid’s phone access for 24 hours so that all their Snapstreaks end” (Smartphone Sanity).

Then there are
Stories. A Snapchat story is a set of snaps (photos and videos) that document something in an individual’s life and disappears in 24 hours, thus motivating people to access the app endlessly in search of the latest live stories. One user says, “My first experience with a Snapchat Story was in college ... It mostly consisted of lots of pics of alcohol-fueled partying.” The stories of celebrities are particularly popular and addicting.

Live Stories are assembled by Snapchat staff. “Live Stories is one of the main ways of watching content on Snapchat. Just like television, the temporary Stories give the users a glimpse into someone’s life” (Snapfluent). Snapchat Live Stories have been called “the most powerful new social media.” They feature music concerts, travelogues, sporting events, and many other things, with a major glorification of worldly partying.

Then there is the
Discover section. It features articles and videos chosen by Snapchat for entertainment value. “[A] great word to describe much of the content in the Discover section is ‘smutty’” (Smartphone Sanity).

One Snapchat filter is “gender-swap” which can change the gender of a photo.

“If I were talking to the youth, the one social media that I would address is Snapchat. To me this is the most dangerous because it is geared toward the youth. It is liberal slanted in politics and has a celebrity orientation and sexual orientation, including homosexuality.”



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